Friday, June 29, 2001

Sailing



In a half-hearted effort to provide some continuity, I'm providing aliases for my co-workers who are mentioned here more than once. This entry involves "Bill", who previously appeared as the host of a Goldpocket event. "Bill" asked me a few weeks ago if I was interested in going sailing that evening. I had much going on, making my life very hectic, so I had to decline. But on Wednesday he invited me again, and armed with 24 hours of notice, I decided to give it a shot. Part of the enticement was my job description: "ballast". I figured it would be fun getting out onto the water and watching everybody else do the work.

Unfortunately, those plans were altered somewhat due to the reduced crew size. The crew consisted of Bill, me and someone else who had sailed twice before. So we stopped off for supplies and headed to the water.

Fortunately, my role was reduced to doing fairly straightforward things under direction. "Let this line out." These tasks were complicated slightly by the fact that on a boat, everything has a different name. Ropes become lines. Left becomes port. I decided that in days of yore, sailors spent a significant portion of their time at sea, so there was no good reason for them to be able to communicate efficiently with landlubbers. These days, people who sail just like the lingo. I had to revise that opinion later when I realized that the terms "port" and "starboard" avoided questions such as "Do you mean my left or the boat's left?" at crucial junctions.

The Compromise left the pier at around 6, in time for the 6:36 start time of the race. Thursday nights in Annapolis are when "J-class" boats race. There are three classes that race -- J-22, J-24 and J-80. J-22s are 22 feet long, J-24s are 24 feet long, and J-80s are, of course, 80 decimeters long. We were in a J-24. And of course, we had no chance of winning. I am proud to say we completed the race without collisions, and we hoisted the spinnaker without incident. I am mainly proud to say "hoisted the spinnaker". I think "hoist" is the appropriate term.

At first, I was somewhat bothered by the amount of effort needed to sail the boat. I mean, how is this relaxing if you're constantly doing things with the jib sheet or boom vang or whatever these things are? But as I got comfortable with my main task (letting one line out and pulling another in during the tacking maneuver), I realized that for people who knew what they were doing, all of the tasks likely took on an air of ritual that was probably pretty cool. But given the relative inexperience of our "crew", the light winds kept things from getting too interesting. And Bill was good at letting us know what we needed to do when (while avoiding the other boats).

As I mentioned earlier, we had no chance of winning. As a matter of fact, we came in dead last. We successfully reset the spinnaker for a second race, but alas, the light wind meant that there was not time for another. So we slowly made our way back to the dock, tied up the Compromise, put away the sails and disembarked.

All in all, a nice, relaxing yet entertaining evening. I learned a little about sailing, didn't get hit by the boom, and hopefully I'll get a chance to do that again some time.
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